In 1917, when the Communists in the former Russian Empire took power, traditional Jewish life was forced to go underground.

The main wave of synagogue closings took place from 1922-23.

By 1926, in Belarus, only 37 synagogues were open. By 1939, there were only 4.

As a result, in almost every town underground cheders were organized. However, during 1937-1938, most of Jewish teachers (melamedim) were arrested and were either sent to Siberia or murdered.

After World War II, the Jews who had survived the Holocaust returned to their hometowns and tried to officially register their Jewish religious communities. From 1948-1953, some 31 towns submitted requests to the Ministry of Religion. These towns included: Minsk, Gomel, Vitebsk, Brest, Pinsk, Mozyr, Rechitsa, Zhlobin, Gluzsk, Parichy, Braslav, Lepel, Polotzk, Drissa, Orsha, Klimovichy, Borisov, Polotzk, Baranovichy, Kalinkovichy, Slutzk , Chechersk, Krichev, Bragin, Osipovichy, Bykhov, Ragachev, Kopyl, Krasnopol’ye, Bobruisk and Khoyniki.

However, only two towns – Minsk and Kalinkovichy – received approval to register their religious communities.

Jews still gathered together quietly to pray – forbidden by law – in private apartments or houses.

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One of the houses used for illegal minyan in Gomel

Here is a 1949 list of Gomel residents, heads of minyans or those who provided their homes as a place for the minyans to gather, and who were fined by the government for doing so.


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